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Computer simulation of the translocation of nanoparticles with different shapes across a lipid bilayer

Abstract

Understanding how nanoparticles with different shapes interact with cell membranes is important in drug and gene delivery1,2,3,4, but this interaction remains poorly studied3. Using computer simulations, we investigate the physical translocation processes of nanoparticles with different shapes (for example, spheres, ellipsoids, rods, discs and pushpin-like particles) and volumes across a lipid bilayer. We find that the shape anisotropy and initial orientation of the particle are crucial to the nature of the interaction between the particle and lipid bilayer. The penetrating capability of a nanoparticle across a lipid bilayer is determined by the contact area between the particle and lipid bilayer, and the local curvature of the particle at the contact point. Particle volume affects translocation indirectly, and particle rotation can complicate the penetration process. Our results provide a practical guide to geometry considerations when designing nanoscale cargo carriers.

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Figure 1: Penetration of ellipsoid nanoparticles having different shapes across a lipid bilayer.
Figure 2: Effect of initial orientation and rotation of the particle on penetration.
Figure 3: Effects of contact area on particle penetration.
Figure 4: Effects of particle disruption on translocation.
Figure 5: Penetrating behaviour of pushpin-shaped particles.

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Acknowledgements

The authors thank R. Austin, M. Laradji, I. Szleifer, Z. Zhang, W. Tian, C. Ren and X. Shi for helpful discussions. This work was supported by the National Basic Research Program of China under grant no. 2007CB925101 and the National Natural Science Foundation of China under grant no. 10974080.

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K.Y. and Y.Q.M. conceived and designed the simulations. K.Y. and Y.Q.M. performed the simulations. K.Y. and Y.Q.M. analysed the data. K.Y. and Y.Q.M. co-wrote the paper. All authors discussed the results and commented on the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Yu-Qiang Ma.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Yang, K., Ma, YQ. Computer simulation of the translocation of nanoparticles with different shapes across a lipid bilayer. Nature Nanotech 5, 579–583 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1038/nnano.2010.141

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